Treating waste as a resource radically changes perception of the waste management industry. Within the circular economy, the role of the sector is to collect, treat and return secondary resources and recovered energy back into the cycle of production and consumption.
Recovering value in the form of materials and energy from waste and reintegrating these into the mainstream economy become the principal policy drivers.
The circular economy has gained widespread currency in Europe. It is used by the European Commission as the driving force behind its resource efficiency programme, it is increasingly being adopted by the UK administrations, and it is central to the business strategies of major firms.
Its power lies in its depiction of the waste sector as being integral to the production economy rather than as an appendage.
The prize is huge. McKinsey & Company estimated that circular operating models could deliver annual efficiency gains across the EU of $380bn (£236bn). By diverting waste into activities involving reuse, recycling or energy recovery, up to 80,000 new direct and indirect jobs could be created in the UK by 2020.
The ESA will attempt to galvanise support across the industry and, working with the Government, create a clear roadmap of actions based on the circular economy, to demonstrate how we could turn green policies into reality.
David Palmer-Jones, chairman of the Environmental Services Association and chief executive of SITA UK